SAN FRANCISCO -- Hawaii is targeting the San Francisco Bay Area, traditionally one of its top and most reliable markets, for a monthlong promotion designed to rev up bookings as visitor arrival numbers to the Islands continue to slide.

"It's clearly not business as usual for us right now," said John Monahan, president and CEO of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, in describing the marketing blitz at a kickoff event here. "We're getting back to grass roots and taking the message straight to consumers."

The $1 million campaign, called "A Thousand Reasons to Smile," includes TV, print, online, billboard, train station and radio advertising. Concerts by top island entertainers are scheduled Friday nights throughout March at Gordon Biersch restaurants in San Francisco, Palo Alto and San Jose.

Local travel agents and wholesalers are receiving incentives, e-marketing tools, sales calls and training seminars with suppliers.

The promotion is showcased on a new site,

"We're hoping to attract people looking for relaxation in these uncertain times, when families will be looking to get away and rest," Monahan said. "Prices for hotels, air and packages are at unbelievably low levels right now."

It is the first time that the HVCB has launched such a targeted campaign, he said, but the challenging times call for increased marketing to regions where Hawaii's most loyal travelers are located.

In the fourth quarter of 2008, arrivals from the western U.S. fell by 20%, the second-largest quarterly decline from the region since 1990, according to the state's Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

In that quarter, the total number of visitors (international and domestic) arriving by air dropped by 281,387 people, a 15.5% decline from the same quarter of 2007. Domestic arrivals were worse, falling 17.2%.

The latest statistics available, for January, also are not positive: Total arrivals by air slipped by 12.4%, to 512,139 visitors, compared with January 2008. Air arrivals from the western U.S. during the month dropped by 14.3%.

Monahan said the bureau was considering launching another "A Thousand Reasons to Smile" campaign in the coming months; that one would target Southern California, its top market.

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